3 articles

I’m working on a project with the Education department of the University Musical Society to redesign, reinterpret, and otherwise make more awesome the teacher resource guides that they provide for the youth performances. (Gigantic PDFs can be had here.) We have proposed a solution that requires the migration of most of the content to a new website that is directed at the students rather than the teachers. As a result, I’ve been thinking a lot about learning in an online space and visual literacy. So, my three articles:

  • “Visual Culture and Literacy Online: Image Galleries as Sites of Learning” by B. Stephen Carpenter II and Lauren Cifuentes. Art Education vol. 64, issue 4, July 2011.
  • “New Horizons: The Sea Change Before Us” by Larry Johnson. EDUCASE Review, March/April 2006.
  • “Keep Your Ear-lids Open” by Gary Ferrington. Journal of Visual Literacy, 1994.

The first is a kind of case study about how online image galleries can be used for interpreting examples of visual culture. It’s mostly a case study of a particular curated online image gallery called Seeing Culture.  I think the article has some problems interpreting results and communicating those results to the reader, but it does bring up some interesting points. Particularly this one:

“By engaging in social interpretations of visual culture, viewers construct interpretations they would not derive in isolation. The forum for interpretation provides learners with a space to rethink and broaden their interpretations in relation to interpretations posted by others. In Seeing Culture students learned to recognize the power of photo manipulation to tell a profound story on one hand or to present a dishonest message on the other.” pg. 37

The second article proposes an interesting concept: the idea of a new media literacy. Of course, it was written by the CEO of the New Media Consortium. Let’s put the bias on the table, ok? Still, the article is very short and provides good, concise definitions of  visual literacy, aural literacy, digital literacy, and information literacy. The author proposes that new media literacy inhabits a space of overlap between these areas.

 “The NMC defines new media literacy as the set of abilities and skills required for proficiency where the aural, visual, and digital realms overlap. These include the ability to understand the power of images and sounds, to recognize and use that power, to manipulate, transform, and pervasively distribute digital media, and to easily adapt digital media to new forms.” pg. 72

Lastly, an article about aural literacy. I have to admit, even with all the talking and thinking I’ve been doing about information literacy and all of its off-shoots this year, it never occurred to me that there might be such a thing as aural literacy. Learning to hear, and not in a musical or conversational context but in the context of interpreting the world, is an interesting concept. I think that there are a lot of good points to be made about all of the kinds of literacies, but I’m a little skeptical about how adding the word “literacy” to the end of someone’s pet project supposedly lends it legitimacy. Anyway, it’s an interesting article with lots of good information that would be valuable to a teacher in the lower grades. The main problem, the author asserts, isn’t in the students’ ability to hear but in their ability to pay attention to or “attend” what they hear. Think about all of the information we gain just by listening: the speed of a passing car, the footsteps of someone approaching from behind, the difference between a firecracker and a gun shot. We assume that these skills are learned tacitly, and maybe they are, but what would happen if they were addressed in a more explicit way?

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4 thoughts on “3 articles

  1. linguomancer says:

    The idea of social interpretation as you describe it makes a lot of sense to me. It kind of reminds me of going to see a movie with friends: I might feel one way about the movie, but sometimes as we walk out of the theater and discuss it, my opinion will shift and change. I can also see this in the way that discussing a TV show or even something like a painting or sculpture can deepen your understanding and appreciation of it.

    • Meggan says:

      UMS has tried to do this with performances at their UMS Lobby website (umslobby.org) – encourage people to engage in deep conversation about the performances in an online forum. It’s been… somewhat successful. The problem is not with people’s ability to talk about the performance but with their willingness to do it in an online space with strangers.

  2. Tyson says:

    So this discussion of social interpretation of visual culture sparked this whole train of thought and investigation that maybe isn’t directly relevant here, but raises some interesting questions.

    So last summer while I was doing my internship in the prints and photographs division of the Library of Congress, this exhibition was going on, and it was really cool:
    http://myloc.gov/Exhibitions/civilwarphotographs/Pages/Programs.aspx

    I was especially interested in it because cataloging this collection had been the main project of the interns in my division the previous year (summer 2010). The coolest part of the exhibition was that there were these touch screens where you could view a digital image of the photographs in their exhibition case, roam around looking at different photos, zoom in on any of them, and even leave public comments on individual photos.

    Naturally, I assumed that their was an online analog to this experience, but I had never actually looked for it. So I went looking around, and discovered that on the Library’s website, there really isn’t. You can view the photos, but they’re not arranged as they were in the exhibit and there’s no commenting capability. Then it occurred to me that the LC has been putting a lot of photos on Flickr, which would be the perfect location for something like this. And sure enough, there’s a Flickr set with all the photos, and lots of comments: http://www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/sets/72157625520211184/.

    But when I went looking on the exhibition site (see above), it took a really long time to find a link to the Flickr set, which was illogically in the “events” section.

    Now I don’t think information literacy was the goal behind putting these photos online– it was mainly about getting more metadata. (There are a lot of Civil War buffs who will obsess over every detail of belt buckles and uniform insignia, and they can help give a lot more context to the photos!) But the difficulty I had in finding the photos and the inability to replicate the (in my opinion) really cool part of the exhibit online easily and accessibly says a lot about how we implement digital library projects, especially ones that try to engage patrons in ways that aid learning. And this is coming from the Library of Congress, arguably the largest and best-resourced library in the world!

    And I apologize for the longest comment ever, Meggan! But part of this post really made me think and triggered this whole investigation, so I felt like I had to share it.

    • Meggan says:

      It sounds like the LOC was valuing the interactivity and commenting features of their exhibition differently than as a social interpretation device. Like you said, they were valuing the metadata not the learning.

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